Who Will Live and Who Will Die This Year?

What a scary, morbid question. Yet, major religions are obsessed with it. The New Year is a big day among Jews, Christians, and even secular Americans who do not practice a faith, but who nonetheless use January 1 as a time for taking stock of their lives.

Renowned educator, radio commentator, moral philosopher and statesman Dennis Prager tackles this question in an essay about Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish observance of the birthday of the world. His insights are illuminating for people of all belief systems. ages and backgrounds. They are especially relevant to those of us determined to make sure our financial portfolios are safe and secure. Why? Because the realization that you will die is the stimulus for the life insurance purchase, and it is this product that protects your other assets. Everything falls into place once you get your priorities in order.

Here are some teachings from Mr. Prager that can help us do just that:

Time is precious.

“The fact is that knowing we will die is one of the most beneficial realizations we can have. First, death forces us to value time. If we never died, why would we do anything we didn’t absolutely have to do?”

“Knowing that our time is limited forces us use it more productively. Years ago, a Swiss lawyer, after being told that he had incurable cancer, wrote a book during his last year of life. Among the first things he decided to do was to stop watching television.”

Perspective, not experience, gives us wisdom.

“Second, death confers wisdom. Knowing that we will die gives us wisdom: Death puts things into perspective.”

“Knowing that we will die clarifies what is important and what is trivial. It is one reason that human beings have always associated age with wisdom. The usual explanation for associating age with wisdom is the longer one lives, the more wisdom one accumulates through increased life experiences. But I believe something else is at least as much at work here. And that is that the older one gets, the closer to death one gets. If people could expect to live, let us say, 500 years, I am not sure that 80-year-olds would have as much wisdom as they do today.”

Things of enduring value are close to the heart.

“Another proof of how much death clarifies what is important is the funeral. It is well worth paying attention to eulogies. If you do, you will notice that much of what we deem to be of major significance is virtually never even mentioned in any of the eulogies for the deceased.”

“For example, many parents …deem what college their children get into to be the most important goal of their child’s life. Virtually everything is dedicated to that goal — getting into the best preschool, the best elementary school, the best junior high and high school, getting the best grades, and spending whatever it takes. But have you ever heard any eulogy mention — even in passing — what college the deceased attended? Has any rabbi, priest, minister, spouse, child or friend of the deceased ever said anything like, ‘We will miss Sam, who, you will recall, attended Harvard’?” (1)

Mr. Prager stresses that the ultimate confrontation with death forces us to talk about what is really important. You know what that is: your spouse, your children, your family, your business, and your legacy. That is why it makes so much sense to provide them with financial security.

(1) “Who Will Live, Who Will Die?” Jewish Journal News. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Aug. 2013.


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